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Off topic: "Meaningless" phrases in English people use every day
Thread poster: RominaZ

RominaZ  Identity Verified
Argentina
English to Spanish
+ ...
Sep 2, 2011

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I've just found this article and I think it is really funny and interesting. Do you use these phrases? Do you also think they are meaningless? Post the total number of phrases like these that you use. Can you add more to this list?


(...) When phrases like the ones below show up over and over again with so little inherent meaning, flair can turn into a flop.

1.- Start at the beginning

Isn’t that where I would expect you to start? You’d really only need to warn me if you were starting somewhere weird there, Horace, like the middle, the end or somehow before the beginning.

2.- Let me begin by saying

Is someone stopping you? Just say it! This is the rhetorical equivalent of, “I am now going to write about.” They teach second-graders not to start their essays that way, so keep it out of your adult conversations.

3.- We, as human beings

As opposed to what? We, as robots? We, as orangutans? Unless you’re speaking to or writing for some especially diverse audiences, you can just say “we.”

4.- That said

Yes, someone said it. And that ought to be pretty evident to everyone else who either heard it or read it. You don’t really need to reiterate that something was said. If you’re offering a counterargument to that statement, a “however,” “conversely” or “but” will do just fine.

5.- Happens to be

Sometimes a coincidence can be so shocking that a “happens to be” may be justified. But in most cases, it’s just a cute way of pointing out someone or something has an interesting or unusual trait, like “That vagrant just happens to be my nephew.” All you need is “is.” That vagrant is your nephew.

6.- All things considered

Here’s what you’re saying when you say this: “Anytime I don’t use this phrase, I’m only considering some things when I make judgments.” Or possibly, “I’m making a too-cute joke about the NPR program of the same name.” In either case, they’re not really statements you want to make.

7.- All in all

As I think about what this phrase could have originally meant or what it could really mean, my brain has tied itself into a Gordian knot. Is it the opposite of “none in none”? A contrast to “some in some”? Is it supposed to imply that every single thing has been fitted into every other thing?

I’d better lie down now

8.- At the end of the day

Like the previous two, this phrase signals that you’re about to sum up all the various pieces of your argument and come to a conclusion. But what does that have to do with the time of day? Almost always nothing. What you’re talking about might even be happening in the morning!

9.- In order to

What you really mean is “to.” The last time an “in order” was justified, it was in the preamble to the U.S. Constitution. And I’m only cutting James Madison some slack because of the whole three branches of government idea and the Bill of Rights. Plus, he was writing back when a lowercase “s” looked like an “f.” Times have changed.

10.- In all its forms

Ahhh! Look out! It’s a shape-shifter!

But seriously, you really don’t need to point out that you like chocolate “in all its forms.” For one thing, that should be self-evident. For another, chocolate is pretty much chocolate, regardless of its physical state.


Source: Ragan.com


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:52
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Another Sep 2, 2011

How about "to be honest" ?

I can't stand that !


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:52
Member (2008)
Italian to English
At this time/at this point in time Sep 2, 2011

in other words "now".

 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:52
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
"As it turned out" Sep 2, 2011

Another pretty useless one, if you ask me.

"if you ask me", another useless one, if you ask me.icon_smile.gif


 

Nathaniel2
Local time: 09:52
Slovak to English
by the by Sep 2, 2011

or by the bye, either way quite annoying

 

matt robinson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:52
Member (2010)
Spanish to English
If you see what I mean... Sep 2, 2011

...if you see what I mean and IMHO, IMHO.

 

Allison Wright  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 08:52
German to English
+ ...
In order to Sep 2, 2011

This is a valid subordinating conjunction.
I stood on the chair in order to dust the top of the wardrobe.
He studied hard in order to pass his examinations.


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:52
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
"Now that I think of it..." Sep 2, 2011

Wouldn't it be awful if we stripped languages of these little frills?

I think I prefer it when someone starts a sentence with "To be honest...", so that I can know beforehand that I will not like what comes next.


 

Ambrose Li  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 03:52
Chinese to English
+ ...
I really hate these rants about useless expressions Sep 2, 2011

if you asked me. It is as if they were trying to treat us like idiots.
Yup, I just used it, and I don’t think it was meaningless.


 

Bernard Lieber  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:52
English to French
+ ...
Complete Plain Words Sep 2, 2011

Check the Complete Plain Words (Sir Ernest Gowers) it's full of similar clichés. Love the buzz-phrase generator!

If you're interested - Cornélius Castoriadis described this trend quite well in "La montée de l'insignifiance" - don't know whether it was translated into English, roughly the rise of insignificance (meaninglessness).

[Edited at 2011-09-02 19:18 GMT]


 

matt robinson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:52
Member (2010)
Spanish to English
word count (and happen to be) Sep 2, 2011

Although at this moment in time some clients are inclined to count the target text in order to determine the word count, in order to determine the amount owed, and if you happen to be translating into English...mmm, it makes you think, doesn't it, if you see what I mean.
To be honest?...not really!


Edited for a question mark!

[Edited at 2011-09-02 18:49 GMT]

[Edited at 2011-09-02 18:49 GMT]


 

Giuseppina Gatta, MA (Hons)
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
The less you have to say... Sep 2, 2011

...the more words you will use!

 

Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 09:52
Italian to English
Not entirely useless Sep 3, 2011

RominaZ wrote:

2.- Let me begin by saying

Is someone stopping you? Just say it! This is the rhetorical equivalent of, “I am now going to write about.” They teach second-graders not to start their essays that way, so keep it out of your adult conversations.



An essay is perhaps not an ideal context in which to use this sort of pleonasm but at a noisy committeee meeting, for example, "Let me begin by saying" can be a good way of attracting attention (with the subtext that the more important stuff will come later on).

Rhetoric is about pace, among other things. Sometimes you need to slow down the flow and that's where stock phrases can do a job. They're a bit like chocolates, though: all right every once in a while but over-indulgence can induce a negative reaction.


 

Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 09:52
German to Serbian
+ ...
Uhm, "like" (Am. English) , argh, hum Sep 3, 2011

Ex. I was like there and they like stared at me and like I went away.

These are called "fillers" in conversational English, and they don't have other purpose but to fill the gaps while the speaker is preparing a new sentence. Oral language is generally less organized, less planned and more spontaneous than written language.


 

IwonaASzymaniak  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:52
Member
English to Polish
+ ...
Other languages Sep 3, 2011

We have it in Polish, and all the other languages I speak. I guess it is just natural in speech. It may get annoying if repeated too often.

In written language, they may become a translator's nightmare. I translated several essays by modern philosophers, political theorists and the like. They were transcripts from their actual lectures given live. Someone should have edited them but no, they were published as they were. I had to make a strategic decision about how to approach them. Well, they were lost in translation...:)


 
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